Grandmother: Church attendance played role in disputed firing in Kobach’s office
TOPEKA — The grandmother of a woman suing over her 2013 firing from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office testified that her granddaughter’s failure to go to church factored into her dismissal.
Margie Canfield also told jurors Tuesday in Topeka that Kobach’s chief deputy, Eric Rucker, whom she had known for a long time, asked her to deliver the bad news to her granddaughter, Courtney Canfield, even though she didn’t work for Kobach’s office, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported .
Rucker “put his fist on the table like he was very emphatic about it and he said, ‘And she doesn’t go to church, Margie. She doesn’t go to church,'” Margie Canfield testified, adding Rucker brought up church as if it was the main reason for Courtney Canfield’s termination.
Rucker disputed that, saying he decided to dismiss Courtney Canfield at the deputy assistant secretary of state’s behest after she was sent home from work because of an office “altercation.” He said he asked Margie Canfield — a longtime Republican Party volunteer — to deliver the news that she was fired from her job of nine months to avoid creating a scene at the office.
Rucker said talk of Courtney’s church attendance came after he and her grandmother discussed her firing, and that Margie told him her granddaughter’s life was a mess. Rucker said he asked if Courtney — a Methodist who did not regularly attend services — was still going to church with her grandmother, but she was not.
“That is the only thing I ever said about church,” Rucker said.
Rucker and others in the Kobach’s office said Courtney Canfield’s attendance record was a main factor behind her firing, saying she frequently missed work, used her cellphone during work hours and did not get along with co-workers.
Kobach, a Republican who until mid-2016 held after-hours Christian prayer and Bible study sessions in his office, has called the allegation of religious discrimination “ridiculous.”
Kobach, who was not expected to appear at the trial and is not a defendant in the case, answered questions under oath for attorneys in June, saying then that he had “very limited interaction” with Canfield and wasn’t notified when she was hired for an “entry level” job in the elections division. Kobach also said he would fire any supervisor who used religion as a reason to terminate an employee.
Kobach is vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud and is running for Kansas governor in 2018.